Images of Activism on Instagram


Since their emergence on Twitter in 2007 and their use on Instagram starting in 2010, hashtags have become the universal tagging tool in image-based social media. For the first time, they made it easy to filter and thus find posts. Since they can be used by anyone regardless of hierarchy, hashtags enable a broad audience to make public statements and to have direct access to information. Apart from restrictions related to income, gender, and ethnicities, they offer a way for interests to gain visibility and feedback. The desire to form collectives and easily launch campaigns has recently turned hashtags into effective slogans and has catapulted them from the purely digital realm onto the streets.

The exhibition format #ProtestsGoViral developed by the House of Photography ties in with the Jerry Berndt and Matt Black exhibitions by addressing social problems and encourages visitors to reflect on the importance of hashtags in current photography focused on activism. It recognizes the posted images as documents of their time and sees the use of hashtags as a phenomenon that is already part of the current history of photography. This media revolution is democratizing documentary photography and making it one of the most important means of communication.

#ProtestsGoViral is based on a selection of viral hashtags on Instagram, the most popular image-based online platform in the United States. The posts shown are updated by the minute, in keeping with the fast pace of social media posts. This compilation thus offers direct insight into various pressing areas of political activism in the United States.

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